No sooner than Frankie Montas hit my radar, he was traded to the Dodgers during the hot stove season in 2015. But before getting to the White Sox, he belonged the the other color of Sox. The Boston Red Sox dealt him to Chicago in another 3-team deal back in 2013. The 23 year-old jumped on the UTRMinors pages in 2014 when he vaulted from the AZL to HiA Winston-Salem and became a UTR-OAS at the end of the season. He was the only spotlight in a hodgepodge of arms for the Sox, with exception of a 19 year-old Luis Martinez who glimmered his way into the OAS Top 5. With Montas gone to LA, most of those listed in 2014 faded away, which opened the door for a talented group in the 2015 edition. The spotlight transferred over to Jordan Guerrero, who I missed on as a “One to Watch”prior to the 15′ season. But I recovered in making our readers aware by writing a blurb on the then 20-year old who was tearing it up at LoA Kannapolis. Now 22, Guerrero spent 2016 cutting his teeth in the Double-A Southern League with Birmingham. He’s a command specialist waiting to blossom; and I still consider him a safe buy to stash in a deep league roster. I could go on to mention the others making the UTR-OAS in 2015, but you’ll see that most grace the Top 5 below. Oh…and Frankie Montas?….my radar was dead-on calibrated, as he made his MLB debut with the White Sox in 2015, and probably would have continued in LA, had he not gotten derailed by an off-season surgery in early 2016. The extraordinary circumstances of his injury may have frightened the Dodgers, as they moved him to the Oakland Athletics in August 2016.
Internationally for the South-siders, it was tough to find a DSL pitcher within my spreadsheet . In fact, only three were listed out of the 30+ pitchers tracked over the last 3 seasons respectively. In 2014, Kevin Escoria and Jadier Rocha were named Organizational All-Stars, but their development has slowed. 2016 International Watch was Jhoan Quijada, who made his U.S. debut, but saw limited action, mostly out of the bullpen.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Scores/TPS
1. LHP Tanner Banks – 20 / .121
24 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
18th round – 2014
Banks had a solid season, especially after his June promotion to Winston-Salem. He drops from my UTR radar, as he turned 25 in late October and hopefully will move on to a more age appropriate level in 2017. Though he rose to the top within my system, I believe it’s too late and I project him as organizational filler.
22 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
48th round – 2011
YES!…it’s so awesome to see a draft pick at the lowest level make the list. And even better when it’s in back-to-back years. Just a few days ago, Hudson Belinsky at Baseball America was asked about the 6′ 7″ righty during the White Sox Top 10 chat session. Some reports state that he has a big fastball and should be groomed in the bullpen.
21 years old – (HiA Winston-Salem / Double-A Birmingham)
5th round – 2013
Lowry didn’t a move an inch from last season to 2016. Well, OK, he received a late season promotion. But he remained ranked 3rd as a White Sox UTR-OAS and just saw one tick chopped from his 2015 TPS (.146 score). Another big righty at 6’4″, Lowry shows promise with a low-90’s fastball with sink, a nice change-up and improving curveball. Though the Double-A numbers were a small sample, they were something to build toward 2017, as Lowry will sit at 22 years-old for the whole season.
Stephens had TJ surgery during his time at Rice University and the White Sox handled him slowly in 2015. He only saw 17.2 innings of work over 11 appearances, with one start. He came on strong in 2016 by skipping over LoA Annapolis and throwing 141 Double-A innings, putting up seasoned numbers. He had 155 strikeouts over that workload and had the top K/9 rate (9.89) amongst all qualified HiA pitchers. This also translated into the second-best K/BB differential at 18.8%. Watch for his command to develop further, which means he won’t be too far away from Chicago.
After Martinez was named a UTR-OAS in 2014, he fell off the radar scope the following year. He repeated at Kannapolis in 2016 and got back on track…and here he is again. Keep a close eye on yet another huge right-hander (6’6″ – 190 lbs) for the Sox.
21 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
32nd round – 2015
Cherry was considered a project coming from the UNC Tarheels. Inconsistency was the mark on his scouting report, but he’s blazed through four levels since his pro debut with no issues. He throws a mid-90’s fastball with a ton of sink and comes after hitters with a side-arm delivery. He did wane toward the end of the season, but he should be continued to be watched if your deep league values relief pitchers.
21 years old – (AZL White Sox / Pioneer Great Falls)
20th round – 2016
If you’d like to track Cherry in the upper levels of the White Sox, try to keep a close eye on Foster. Drafted out of the University of Alabama, Foster had an outstanding pro debut, and led the White Sox minor league system in saves (11). Prior to transferring to the SEC, Foster was absolutely dominant as a starter for Gulf Coast Community College. In 16 starts, the right-hander posted an 11-4 record with a 2.03 ERA and struck out 111 over 105.2 with only 26 walks. His success continued when the Crimson Tide moved him into the bullpen full-time.
24 years old – (HiA Winston-Salem / Double-A Southern)
16th round – 2014
Cooper’s Factor Score above indicates that of a starting pitcher, and just missed being ranked #5. But Cooper made more relief appearances than starts and he gets mentioned as a relief pitcher only because my limited spreadsheet entries. Plus, the White Sox system was weak from the bullpen. Cooper was mentioned last season, but this year holds more clout, as he could have easily made both lists, which is a UTR-OAS rarity.